Arts in Private Schools
Many private schools offer extensive courses and extra-curricular programs in the arts, from music to drama and dance to visual arts. Studies have shown numerous benefits for students engaging in creative programs while in school. Students involved in the arts tend to demonstrate higher academic achievement and greater motivation to learn. Additionally, participation in visual and performing arts enhances creative thinking, spatial reasoning, writing skills, and reading comprehension. Parents interested in a school’s arts program should plan to attend a student production or art exhibit, or ask for a tour of facilities during a school visit.
There are many private schools in the GTA known for particularly strong arts programs. Appleby College has a wide range of visual, music, dance, and dramatic arts programs. Upper Canada College and Bishop Strachan School each have a strong individual visual arts and music program, and they combine forces for joint theatre performances each year. St. Michael’s Choir School is a music-based Catholic school for boys offering a curriculum in academic subjects as well as liturgical music. Each student participates in one of the school’s four choirs, and admission is by vocal audition.
Athletics in Private Schools
Top private schools frequently offer athletic programs of a quality that rival those of college and universities. Believing in the motto mens sana in corpore sano (“a healthy mind in a healthy body”), private schools frequently require some sort of athletic participation as part of their curriculum.
The Conference of Independent Schools of Ontario Athletic Association (CISAA) is a sports conference of private schools in southern Ontario and the Greater Toronto Area. Originally consisting of only four founding members, the CISAA has now grown to a total of 36 member schools. Within the CISAA, there are many private schools in the GTA known for particularly strong athletic programs. These include De La Salle College “Oaklands,” Ridley College, St. Andrew’s College, St. Michael’s College School, and Upper Canada College, to name just a few.
Some private schools are designed specifically to meet the academic and athletic needs of high-performing student athletes. In addition to providing a full academic curriculum, athletic academies provide nutritional counselling, conditioning, and strength training geared toward specific sports. Students work closely with teachers, coaches, nutritionists and counsellors to create an individual curriculum that will optimize both academic and athletic performance, and allow them to balance both school and sports commitments. Athletic academies frequently offer boarding options that allow students to live on campus and take advantage of the academy resources and facilities 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
In the Greater Toronto Area, athletic academies include the PEAC School for Elite Athletes in Toronto and the Hill Academy in Vaughan. Both are co-ed facilities enrolling students from grades 7-12, and both offer boarding options.